Vettel strolls to Melbourne win
Sebastian Vettel ran away from the field to take the Australian Grand Prix, in his Red Bull-Renault, 22.2 seconds ahead of Lewis Hamilton in the McLaren-Mercedes. Vitaly Petrov was in third place, 30.5 seconds behind in his Renault - his first podium, and the first for a Russian driver in Formula One.
Red Bull admitted it did not use KERS at any time on Saturday or Sunday after Sebastian Vettel dominated.
Finally quashing rumors that the RB7 features a 'mini-KERS' that is used only for grand prix starts, team boss Christian Horner said the energy-recovery systems in Vettel and Mark Webber's cars were actually removed altogether after Friday practice.
"KERS has advantages and disadvantages. We elected not to use it," the Briton told the BBC.
The news is eye-opening given Vettel's easy run from pole position to the first corner, with the KERS system in Lewis Hamilton's car not pushing the Briton to the front of the field.
"It didn't look like we needed it," Horner smiled.
"We ran it on Friday, but we felt it was a potential risk. It's quite a complicated technology and Adrian (Newey) being Adrian, he wouldn't compromise the aerodynamics of the car."
"There's plenty of precedent of damaged cars. I wouldn't think it's a problem," he said.
Ferrari's Fernando Alonso finished fourth, behind the impressive podium debutant Vitaly Petrov, who in the sister Renault R31 finished eleven places ahead of Nick Heidfeld.
"To be honest I'm very happy to be here [on the podium]," Petrov said. "All weekend was pretty good for us, but really after testing we didn't know where we were. We came here with some new parts and through free practice our car looked pretty strong, and also qualifying wasn't too bad. Then we just focused on our race and I think today the team did everything perfectly. We must be proud of our placing today."
Sauber's Sergio Perez defied expectations by changing his Pirelli tires only once to finish seventh on debut, while Australian fans were disappointed to see Mark Webber only fifth.
"It's very unusual to see such a big difference between the guys (Vettel and Webber)," admitted Horner. "We need to have a very close look before Malaysia."
Mark Webber was 5th in the second Red Bull , Jenson Button's McLaren in sixth, Sergio Perez (in the Sauber-Ferrari in seventh (scoring points in his first Grand Prix), his teammate Kamui Kobayashi in eighth, Felipe Massa in the Ferrari in ninth (he also has fastest lap) and Sebastien Buemi picking up the final point, one lap down.
Michael Schumacher said he retired from the Australian Grand Prix on safety reasons after a first-lap collision with Jaime Alguersuari which left him with a puncture.
Following the coming together, Schumacher was forced to limp into the pits at the end of the lap with his tire shredded. He returned but was unable to make any mark and eventually retired after 19 laps.
"I had quite a good start and made up quite a few positions, I was already passed Kobayashi, and then at Turn 1 it got a bit tight and I had to slow down," Schumacher told the BBC. " I got going again and got running down to T3, but turning in somebody knocked on my right rear. The consequence was that I had a puncture, and that meant that it destroyed the rear tire and that destroyed the rear of the floor.
"When the tire is punctured it will fall into pieces and that broke off bits and pieces around the tire and that was quite substantial.
"On top of that I'm pretty sure we had a bent suspension because I had a funny behavior between left and right corners, so that was a bit entertaining for the laps that I did. But it wasn't worth it and I think the team quite rightly decided for safety reasons to come in and not risk anything."
Sebastian Vettel (1st): "I'm very pleased, it was a very good weekend and I had a very nice car to sit in this afternoon. It was a good race - towards the end things calmed down a bit. Lewis didn't push as hard, so we tried to control the last part of the race. I don't think it was easy today. The start was crucial and being on the clean side I had a very good getaway. I didn't know if it was enough, but then I saw Lewis and Mark battling for position. I got a cushion on lap one and we tried to hold the gap for the first stint. When the tires went off, Lewis caught up and we came in. I think it was the right time, as I couldn't have done more laps. After my first stop it was crucial to get past Jenson, which I did. That was important. In the second part of the race I didn't know what was going on behind Lewis, if he was under pressure or not, but towards the end of the race I could control it more. We learned a lot of things today. It's good coming here after a long winter and setting the pace."
Mark Webber (5th): "I wasn't quick today and it was the same in qualifying yesterday, so we need to understand the reason why. There wasn't much else I could do today. I lost the last position to Fernando (Alonso) during the pit stops and that was it really. It was very frustrating. Seb drove a good race, in terms of what the car can do, but it's not normal for me not to go and match the rhythm at the front. I should be able to stay with these guys, but today I finished a long way behind. It was a tough race and I was pushing as hard as I could, but I wasn't getting much back. To finish that far behind is not really usual, but let's stay cool; it's the first race. I'm looking forward to going to Malaysia; I wish the race was tomorrow already. I was in a different race to Sebastian today, so we had to do different things. I was in trouble with the tires much sooner than he was, so we need to have a look why."
Christian Horner, Sporting Director: "It was a fantastic performance by Sebastian today. He's been dominant all weekend and to turn up and win the first race with a faultless drive was fantastic. It's testimony to all the hard work that's gone in over the winter and to have book-ended the two championships by winning the last race in Abu Dhabi and the first race here is a fantastic achievement. We're also very proud to have won Pirelli's first race on its return to Formula One. The tires were as expected in the race, with a combination of two and three stops and, while it was a bit of a voyage of discovery with the new rules, it was fantastic to come here and dominate a race that we've historically struggled at. Unfortunately things didn't work out for Mark at his home grand prix and we need to understand why. We took a slightly different strategic route with him running the harder tire second, as his degradation seemed to be higher than Sebastian's. It's something we need to look into on Mark's car, as it was an unusual difference between them this weekend that we don't normally see. I'm sure that will be back to normal for Malaysia."
Cyril Dumont, Renault: "An excellent race for Sebastian. I think it's the first time that he's finished this race and in that position is very good! Regarding Mark, I think he got a solid result, although I am sure he will be disappointed. We're sure he will come back strongly in Malaysia. For Renault to have two engines on the podium this weekend is a very good result."
Lewis Hamilton (2nd): "Second position is a great result. The car felt fantastic, really nice to drive, and I was able to look after my tires throughout the race. To be able to apply pressure to Sebastian [Vettel] so soon into the season was massively encouraging, too. I think we were competitive enough today to compete for the win. If it hadn't been for the poor start, we could have been in the fight. So I think we should be excited. I don't really know what happened with the floor, but it didn't feel too bad to drive. After the race I had a look at it, and it looked quite badly damaged. I was just glad to be able to bring the car home, I was nursing it. Physically, though, that was one of the easiest races I've ever had. I came here feeling fitter than ever, so I'm looking forward to going to Malaysia, which is probably the toughest race of the year. I'm also looking forward to seeing what additional performance we can bring to the next race. The engineers know where there's more performance to be gained, and we'll get it to the track as soon as we can. I think we can challenge for the win at Sepang."
Jenson Button (6th): "I got an okay start, but I was surprised to see Vitaly [Petrov] up the inside - he got a very good start and forced me wide. Then I got stuck behind Felipe [Massa], because I got a very poor exit out of Turn 1, and that was the worst move of my race, because he was so slow and difficult to overtake. He slowed us both down massively. I tried to overtake him around the outside of Turn 11. I was in front before we turned in, but he went really deep into the corner and pushed me wide so that I couldn't take my normal line. After my drive-through penalty I had to fight my way back - which was fun but also frustrating. I just wish I could have got the best out of it today, but at least Lewis did a good job. We should be very happy with our pace though. We'll have upgrades for the next race, but the car is still very new, and there are plenty of changes we can make to hone the package. We should be very happy with this weekend, I just wish I could have come away with more points."
Martin Whitmarsh, Team Principal: "Early on, Lewis was more or less able to stay in touch with Sebastian, but once his car's undertray had been damaged he was no longer able to keep the leading Red Bull in sight. Even so, he drove a great race, in difficult circumstances, to finish second today. Jenson drove hard and well all afternoon too, but was thwarted by two separate pieces of bad luck: first of all he got bogged down at the first corner, losing a few places, and after that he received a drive-through penalty for his passing maneuver on Felipe, even though he felt he'd been forced off the road by Felipe as he made good his pass. Had he not been given that penalty, he'd have been spraying champagne on the podium with Sebastian and Lewis this afternoon, but I guess that's motor racing. Overall, though, when you consider where we were a few weeks ago, you'd have to say that for us to come away from Australia with 26 world championship points is a pretty decent outcome. More important, though, it means that we've got a very promising platform from which to develop our car and compete for world championship honors this season. Roll on, Malaysia!"
Fernando Alonso (4th):
Felipe Massa (9th):
Stefano Domenicali, Team Principal:
Nico Rosberg (DNF, Damage): "That was a disappointing first weekend of the season. It was a tough race until my retirement with the cars behind me pushing hard. I saw Rubens in my mirror and he was quite far away so I was surprised that he hit me. I immediately thought that was it and I had to pull over to stop the car. It's very sad for the team as they have worked so hard this weekend and throughout the winter. However we focus on the positive and it will be interesting to see how we perform in Malaysia. Melbourne is a very unique track and we will only know where we really are after the next couple of races."
Michael Schumacher (DNF, Damage): "The start of the season certainly has not worked out as we had hoped, and we will tick this race off now and concentrate on the next one in Malaysia. I am very sorry for our guys here and at the factory who have worked so hard and so well over the winter, but for some reason we could not bring their work into results this weekend. As for the race itself, I had quite a good start but was then hit in turn three which punctured the right rear tire and resulted in damage to the floor. As the damage was quite substantial, we decided to stop the car for safety reasons. It was an even bigger shame that Nico was then knocked out of the race as he could have scored some good points for the team. I still believe we have potential, as we saw during winter testing, and I am convinced we will fight back."
Ross Brawn, Team Principal: "This has obviously been a very frustrating weekend for our team. Michael's race was spoilt almost immediately with a collision which eventually caused sufficient damage to force us to retire the car. Nico was running reasonably well, however an over-ambitious move from Rubens, which the stewards also agreed with, brought his race to an end. It's a disappointing end to a disappointing first weekend of the season. We will demonstrate our strength as a team, put this race behind us, regroup and go forward from here."
Norbert Haug, Mercedes Motorsport Director: "This was the toughest weekend of our 20 races as MERCEDES GP PETRONAS. From the first practice session, we had various technical problems which we did not experience during our pre-season testing preparations of more than 5000km. Nico and Michael were handicapped in their ability to set the cars up in the best possible way and our performance was not where it should be. In the race, Michael was hit after the start with the impact damaging his car enough that we had to call him in on lap 21 for safety reasons. Another car drove into Nico shortly afterwards which was the end of his race. We need to resolve our problems ahead of the next race and everybody will work very hard to achieve that within the next ten days. Sorry for all the hard-working people in our team for not having a better start to the 2011 season but we will improve soon."
Vitaly Petrov (3rd): "I'm delighted to be here on the podium, especially after the winter that we had as a team, which was very tough. Even during testing we didn't really know where we were compared with the others, but we continued adding new parts to the car this weekend, and they worked pretty well. I made a great start today, which was probably the key for my race because it got me ahead of Alonso and Button, and I was able to run in some clean air and push hard, as well as looking after my tires. Our two-stop strategy was clearly the right decision and we made it work. I have to say a big thanks to everyone in the team for working so hard and for supporting my over the winter. This result is for all of us and I'm totally ecstatic."
Nick Heidfeld (14th): "Today was a tough race. I'm obviously disappointed not to finish in the points, but it just wasn't possible, especially after I got hit on the first lap. It's a shame because I had made such a good start from 18th to 12th by the first corner. The damage to the car was quite severe, mostly to the right hand bodywork, sidepod and engine cover. So it wasn't a strong race for me at all. But, I'm pleased for the team and Vitaly that we have this excellent result today. It shows that we have a competitive car and that we can fight hard this year."
Eric Boullier, Team Principal: "The podium today is a huge relief and a big reward for all the work which has been done by all the team, and obviously I am very happy. It shows that the decision we took to be aggressive with the design of the car was the right call, and it's something we can build on going forward. The performance of Vitaly was very strong and it shows that we can deliver strong results this season. In fact, I have no doubt that both our drivers can be fighting towards the front at the next race and that we can build on the competitiveness we have shown this weekend."
James Allison, Technical Director: "I'm utterly delighted for everyone in the team because it has not been easy getting here. I would be lying if I said I thought we'd earn a podium like we did today, but Vitaly's place looked very good in qualifying and we knew we were competitive. We thought we were in with a shout of a good fight with the Ferraris, and we did exactly that. Going forward we will have more aero updates for the car in Malaysia, which are worth a few extra tenths. It should allow us to build on our strong showing today."
Riccardo Penteado, Engine Support Leader: "A fantastic result for Lotus Renault GP today and a dream start to the season. Vitaly drove a great race, under lots of pressure from former world champion Fernando Alonso, but he didn't make a single mistake and showed that the car has a huge amount of potential. He drove every lap like a qualifying lap and therefore we were a bit tight on the fuel towards the end of the race, but both he and the team managed the economy very well and finally it worked out how we wanted, in fact even better, with a podium. Nick's race was compromised by some damage to the car. From the engine side we're obviously very pleased with how it's gone today and are already looking forward to Malaysia."
Rubens Barrichello (DNF, Transmission): "It was a tough race for us. I was pushed out a little bit at the start, but then I had a good rhythm going and was doing quite a lot of overtaking until the incident with Rosberg. I wasn't planning on overtaking him at that point, I was defending from Kobayashi. I think we have one tire with grip and one with less and so we have different braking points. Rosberg braked earlier, and was already in the middle of the corner before I could stop the car. The '33' was competitive today, which is positive going into the next race."
Pastor Maldonado (DNF, Transmission): "We don't know exactly what happened with the car; we will have to look into the problem with our engineers. There was no warning, we just stopped and that was it for us. The start was great though. There were some big moments going into the first two corners, but I came through them ok. I was then getting settled into the race, everything was feeling ok in the car, I felt good and then it went. I'll now just look forward to getting back out there again in Malaysia."
Sam Michael, Technical Director: "After problems with the sector settings on the moveable rear wing, Rubens' FW33 had a strong opening pace and he was progressing well through the field, setting competitive lap times. We then had a slow leak on the front tire so we stopped to avoid a failure. Rubens made a good recovery and was making progress when he came together with Rosberg's Mercedes and the front wing failed. We chose to continue in order to gather data on the tires and KERS. Towards the end of the race, Rubens retired with a suspected transmission issue. We had a transmission failure on Pastor's car early on in the race, we are currently investigating both problems. We take away quite a lot of data from this weekend."
Adrian Sutil (11th): "Generally it was not a bad race. Coming from 16th was not easy; the start itself was good and as usual there were a lot of cars at the first corner, but I made up several places by the end of lap one. We had good performance on the track and in the end it was a good race for the first one of the season. It is a shame that we were just outside the top ten, but we hope to have improved our pace and be in the points in Malaysia."
Paul di Resta (12th): "We had quite a good start and fight with Kobayashi, but that allowed one of the Toro Rosso's by and from there we lost a bit of momentum. Our pace was just a little bit behind today, but hopefully by Malaysia we will be able to understand why and, when the upgrades come, perform at bit better. Adrian and I were on different strategies and we had to fuel conserve toward the end that's why the gap opened up. I am going into Malaysia to try to do a better job than I did here today, but overall I am relatively happy."
Otmar Szafnauer, Chief Operating Officer: "It was good to see both Force India cars run a consistent race today. It is, of course, disappointing to finish just outside the points, but we have to look at the positives and what we have learned this weekend. Paul drove an impressive first race, looking after his tires and showing that he has made a comfortable transition into F1. Adrian made up five places from the start and gave a good performance today. Moreover, the team's results confirm that our reliability is there, what we need to work on now is our race pace to be genuinely in the hunt for points."
Sergio Perez (7th): "I will never forget this race, that is certain. After we changed from the hard to the soft tires, I thought at first I had to push. But then I realized I could manage the tires quite well and we decided to go to the end with them. I lost some time behind Sebastian Vettel, but I was then able to overtake him. I used the rear wing and he also left room. I am very proud of my team, the strategy worked and it was a nice surprise the tires lasted so long. I want to thank everybody, especially in Mexico, who helped me to get into Formula One."
Kamui Kobayashi (8th): "I'm very happy we have managed to score points with both cars. I had a good start and got by Alonso, who overtook me later. With the first set of soft tires I was struggling to warm them up. With the second set of the soft ones I think the pace was good, and also the third stint on the harder tires was okay. I had a big moment when Rubens Barrichello and Nico Rosberg crashed in front of me, but no more excitement after that. It is a good start and makes me feel happy looking forward to the season."
Peter Sauber, Team Principal: "I would call this a dream start to the season, as we could not have expected this. It is also a well deserved reward for both drivers. Kamui's eighth place was a superb job. I have no explanation for what Sergio did, and how he managed to do 35 laps with a set of used soft tires setting consistent lap times."
James Key, Technical Director: "This is obviously a very positive day to get both cars to the finish and into the points. Both drivers did exactly what we needed them to do. We had nail biting last few laps but Sergio did a superb job to finish the race with those tires. Also for Kamui, the race and strategy worked well. He had to stop twice because of the tires he used in qualifying. We are very happy with this start to the season and are looking forward to Malaysia very much."
Sebastien Buemi (10th): "It's not too bad finishing tenth, after making it to Q3 yesterday, but I think I could have done better, maybe an eighth or ninth place was possible. It's a shame that my team-mate and I made contact at the first corner. It's not the first time it has happened, so I think we will be having a chat about it after I've watched a recording of the incident! Towards the end, I was not able to hold off Massa, who was much quicker than me at that point, but I am still pleased with the result. Overall, I would say we are definitely more competitive than last year and now we must continue to move forward, bringing further improvements to the car. It has been a positive start and we will have a lot to learn from analyzing this whole weekend and then we will see what we can do in Malaysia."
Jaime Alguersuari (13th): "I got a good start, moving up to about tenth or eleventh place I think. Then, coming into Turn 2, Michael (Schumacher) cut the corner as he was having a go around the outside, while I was on the inside. The result was that he touched my front wing and I had to come in to change it. He could not have avoided doing it, as I was already in the middle of the corner. That meant I had an extra stop, which effectively ended my chances of getting a good result. I have to say my car worked well, with quite a good pace. I am pleased to have finished the first race and now we must look at what we can do to improve further for Malaysia."
Franz Tost, Team Principal: "A good result for the whole team, because to score a point in the first race proves that everyone at Toro Rosso worked well over the winter and everyone here at the track, back in the factory and at our wind tunnel deserves praise for that. Buemi had a good start, but unfortunately, at the first corner, Alguersuari drove into him and this had a negative impact on the performance of Buemi's car for the rest of the afternoon. Nevertheless, Sebastien performed well and did a very good job. Given all the negative comments we heard over the winter about their tires, Pirelli should also be congratulated on their performance here, especially when you consider that one car finished in the points making just one pit stop throughout the race. Finally, well done to Sebastian Vettel for starting the season with another win for Red Bull. We can now prepare for Malaysia, with the confirmation that we have started out on the right foot and we must work to maintain this momentum."
Jarno Trulli (15th): "It was really good to finish the race and to show that there is some pace in the car, despite some of the problems we have had to work through this weekend. We now have a lot of very useful data we can use to help us move ahead in Malaysia and China and I think once we have got through these early teething troubles we will show that we have taken the step forward we want to this year."
Heikki Kovalainen (DNF, Water leak): "Until the retirement I was very pleased with my own performance. I had a good start and was then staying with Alguersuari and Perez until the water leak brought my race to an end. I think this has been a bit of a tricky weekend for us, perhaps more difficult than we had anticipated, but we have some time now to analyze why the pace wasn't quite where we had expected it to be and to work on the reliability before we get to Malaysia. We're all ready to put in the hard work to make sure we keep moving forward, and these are still early days in the life of Team Lotus so we'll put in the hours and look for an improved performance in our home race in Malaysia."
Tony Fernandes, Team Principal: "I am happy. After a tense day to see Jarno have a strong finish in 15th and show good speed in the race is very pleasing. We knew we had a potential issue with the radiator on Heikki's car so when he had to pull over it was not a surprise, but the main thing for me today is that the pace we showed in the pre-season tests is back. We were able to stay with the midfield teams and that has been the stated target for this year so now we know we have a base to build on for the season ahead and some time to fix the radiator issue before we go home to Malaysia for the next race. With the work ethic and spirit in our team I am confident we will take another step forward in Sepang and we are all very excited about coming home again for the next race."
Mike Gascoyne, Chief Technical Officer: "After a pretty tough weekend I am very pleased with both Jarno and Heikki's race performances. We had an issue with water leak on the radiator on Heikki's car and soon after his pitstop that unfortunately brought an end to his race. He had been very strong on the options so that was a shame, but he had looked good until that point which is obviously encouraging. Jarno struggled early on with the prime tires so we swapped him onto the options and he quickly found his pace. Our speed in the race was much more representative of the pace we had shown in testing so for Malaysia the target is to make sure we achieve that level throughout the whole weekend. In summary it was good to get one car to the end with solid pace and thank you to the whole team for some very good work all week."
Thierry Salvi, Renault: "That is a good result for us. We were not able to finish the race with Heikki but with Jarno we saw some encouraging signs from the car's behavior and I think we will be able to extract more performance from it in the next race after we have been through the data in more detail. For the first race with a Renault Sport F1 engine in a Team Lotus car this is a good day."
Jerome d'Ambrosio (16th): "I'm really happy to have finished my first Formula One Grand Prix. I started really well and I felt comfortable in the car, even though I think that I could have gone a bit faster at the end of the race. But the most important thing is that we completed the race and this will give me plenty of experience which will be useful for the next races. I would like to thank the team for a great job all weekend. We had a very productive time and we will carry the lessons through to the next race in Malaysia and hopefully start moving forward from there."
Timo Glock (Unclassified): "I think we had quite a good speed in the race. I was behind Jarno Trulli, then caught him and got past him in the pitstop. Unfortunately at the pitstop the front left wheel was loose and I had to drive round for one lap very slowly then come into the pits. Unfortunately the drive pegs were damaged but we repaired it, and I at least was able to rejoin the race. For the first couple of laps it was okay but then the car had quite a lot of vibration, so I just tried to focus on finishing the race. In the end it was a little disappointing but at least we demonstrated good reliability and brought both cars to the finish."
John Booth, Team Principal: "First and foremost we have to be happy that we achieved our objective of a two-car finish. To move forward we have to maximize our track time and gather as much data as possible to feed back into the development program and I am comfortable that we have been able to demonstrate such promising reliability. The problem with Timo's wheel is disappointing and even when he was back out on track his progress was hampered as a consequence of the damage sustained. Jerome delivered a good debut race performance so he can feel very proud of what he has achieved this weekend. Finally, congratulations to the team for a big push for the start of the season."
Nikolay Fomenko, Engineering Director: "I would like to congratulate Vitaly Petrov for a great drive today which saw him become the first Russian driver to stand on the Formula One podium. It's a great day for Russia, Formula One fans and a good step on the road to the new Russian Grand Prix in Sochi in 2014."
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